The sale of “high-test” beer on a section of East Sprague is being restricted by the Spokane City Council in an effort to curb some of the consequences of alcohol abuse.
The council voted unanimously Monday night to place voluntary restrictions on the sale of beer fortified with a higher alcohol content. Business owners in the recently created “International District” said the alcohol impact area would be one more tool in their efforts to clean up the area.
Keith Raschko of One World Spokane, a nonprofit restaurant, said these particular beers are so strong and so cheap that alcoholics can often raise the money for a can by panhandling spare change. The proposal has the support of the East Spokane Business Association and the East Central Neighborhood Council.
The ordinance covers the area between Perry and Rebecca streets; although concentrated on East Sprague, the borders go north to Main Avenue and south to Fifth Avenue. Stores are being asked to voluntarily stop selling single cans or six packs of beer with high alcohol content. They can still sell 12-packs.
Police and fire officials will monitor criminal complaints and medical emergency calls related to alcohol for six months. If these controls don’t work, the Washington State Liquor Control Board could be asked to order the nine stores with liquor licenses in the area to stop selling high-alcohol beer.
Jon Snyder, the publisher of the monthly magazine Out There, which has its office on East Sprague, said he’s had to break up fights between drunks outside his building, and once had someone urinate through the office’s mail slot. Similar restrictions have helped improve Pioneer Square in Seattle, he said.
Snyder is running for City Council, but this is an issue where he agrees with his opponent, Councilman Mike Allen.
“If you’re going to make a difference, you have to take a step,” said Allen, who sponsored the ordinance.